Recently, the anonymously written pamphlet Desert was reviewed by (the) two egoist newspapers: Cresencia Desafio (CD) in The Sovereign Self‘s sixth issue and by Apio Ludd (AL) in the very first issue of My Own. Both reviews are strikingly similar, each deploying their Stirner-inspired critique of both Hope and The Future against Desert. However, they failed to interest me for two reasons: they are responses to sentiments that, didn’t actually appear in the text, and, by focusing on the question of hope, flew straight past what I consider most exciting about the it.
I felt increasingly frustrated as the author emphasized mostly on the incumbent disasters of the future rather than focusing on potential contentions of the present. And even then, their plan of action was incredibly unclear, vapid, and even slightly confusing at times.
A Critique of Desert, CD
There are hints about who the author of Desert is addressing. I imagine that the text is primarily aimed at the anarchist who believes (or pretends to believe) that saving the world is possible: one who is attached to some version of the future (the rev, the collapse, whatever). I also imagine that the author of Desert thinks that things would be more interesting if they were surrounded by comrades who were relieved of such illusions.
Desert explores various possible futures, not with attachment, but as a way of demonstrating that insofar as we can say anything about the future, it is only that there will be one (probably) and that it will be incredibly complicated. This is one of the main points of the text: things possess an immense complexity that our politics rarely accounts for. The future will be filled with uncertainty (much like the present). In some places things will be exciting and liberatory, in others horribly oppressive. Whatever it is that we do, depends on where we are and what’s going on.
Desert is an exploratory work, not a prescriptive one. Perhaps CD found the author’s program ‘unclear’ because it lacked one. The author lays out what they think might happen in different parts of the world, they hypothesize possible ways that anarchists and radicals might respond to such shifts, and give interesting examples of what other people have done/are doing in similar circumstances. This is why the point about complexity is so important—not only does it become unimaginably difficult to develop any sort of program, prediction, or plan, but it also gives us reason to refocus our energies on what is most immediate in our lives. Desert points out that while we don’t have any capacity to completely understand, let alone save the planet we do have the capacity to interact with our local environments, to create a more expansive life project, to find accomplices, and to survive in ways that are increasingly liberating. This strikes me as a dramatic rejection of the distant for the immediate, both geographically and temporally.
The author of Desert remains such a slave; despite his/her critique, s/he has not Deserted hope.
Deserting Hope?, AL
…they did choose to focus largely on potential global chaos…which I perceive as a surrendering of themselves to the same age-old ‘when the revolution comes’ sentiment—hoping for potential future contentions as a sort-of anticipatory solution to their discontent.
A Critique of Desert, CD
The illusion of hope fills both reviews. Although, this illusion is not of having hope, but of seeing it where it isn’t. The most that can be said about Desert’s specific judgements about the future is that there will be, “of course, unimaginable weirdness.” This is not described as being a weirdness that one looks forward to; the author is merely engaged in an exploratory exercise that concerns itself with possibility. Talking about the future does not necessarily mean that we are always committed to whatever predictions we might be making. Even if we are fairly certain about our predictions, our lives and our happiness don’t have to be contingent on their realization.
The future is always only a vision, i.e., a hallucination.
Deserting Hope?, AL
Imagining the future as a fantasy or daydream, instead of as a possibility to be hoped for, can certainly be a worthwhile anarchist exercise. I can create other worlds inside my head, tweaking and changing them to suit my every fancy; their existence is completely intentional and creates no expectations or assumptions about future reality. My fantasies give me an enormous amount of pleasure and satisfaction, as well as making my desires more clear to me. There are many ways of relating to one’s fantasies that are, indeed, deluded. Believing in their inevitability or longing for their realization both seem to muddy the water and prevent one from living in the present as expansively as possible. Instead, I name my fantasies and daydreams for what they are and indulge them so long as doing so gives me pleasure; the problem only arises when we mistake the dreams for reality.
The future should not be allowed to foreclose on today, even if today is foreclosing some possibilities in the future. No future is worth living or fighting for that is not existent in the present.
Desert strikes me as a playful imaginative exercise with the purpose of bringing others in on the game. Rejecting global everything, it argues that the question ‘how do I live my life?’ might be more worthwhile than ‘how do I save the world?’ It asks us to abandon our longing for a future that we have no capacity to create, or that we have no reason to believe in, and instead use this energy to explore ourselves, our surroundings, and, if one chooses, others. Most interestingly, Desert challenges us to rethink our understanding of anarchist subcultures. Perhaps these complicated networks of individuals are best equipped to adapt to whatever the future might bring. Within them, there might be the capacity to widen the cracks in the concrete, that allow us to live out our wildness more expansively. All of this is only possible to the extent that we are open to new ways of relating to our desires, to each other, and to circumstance.
These are all sentiments that the egoist in me is very friendly towards.
I, with the author of Desert, abandon hope and despair but choose to leave the future where it is: in my imagination as a conscious fantasy. I thank the author of Desert for providing me with more fodder for my daydreams. I will continue to navigate this peculiar narrative of mine with all the information I have at my disposal. The Desert around me will sometimes allow me to see into the future so that I might prepare accordingly; other times I will be forced to ride the dunes of complete uncertainty. Either way, I will spend my time playing in the sand—all the while trying to remain indifferent to any particular outcome.